Racial justice is a spiritual imperative
Photo credit: Creative Commons, photo by loavesofbread
Our congregation has committed to intentionally grapple with and address the issues of systemic racism. With assistance from our pastors and our national United Church of Christ, we have begun the challenging journey of opening our hearts and minds to understanding our own culture of white supremacy, Educating ourselves and exploring ways to become anti-racist allies has not been a smooth path, but we remain united in the belief, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. taught, that “Injustice anywhere threatens justice everywhere.”
We are called to this commitment by our faith. We follow Jesus who told us to “Love our neighbors” and who came to, “bring good news to the poor, …proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)
As our pastors articulated in May 2020:
We made a commitment to each other to make strides in self-awareness and community learning, and to lift our voices in witness as followers of Jesus, who himself was an innocent brown-skinned man killed at the hands of the state.
When we feel helpless, overwhelmed, or grief-stricken, we are companioned by the Christ who understands our pain. Like the early Disciples, we follow the way of Jesus because Christ can make a Way out of no way. Christ calls us to a way of justice and radical inclusion, a way that seeks to make the kin-dom of heaven here on earth.
Striving to be an anti-racist congregation
“If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
— Aboriginal activists group, Queensland, 1970s
In 2018, our youth preached about racial justice, encourage a process that culminated in a congregational meeting in 2019. At this meeting, we passed a Racial Justice Resolution that articulated our intentions: we acknowledged that, “there are many ways in which we, as a congregation, take part in the systemic racism that exists in our society and our church. We affirm that as people of faith and followers of Jesus, we are called to work in our understanding of systemic racism, and to work in ways both in and outside the church to change those systems and ourselves. We acknowledge that while our journey in this work has begun, many steps are still to be taken. We are called to take strides in self-awareness, in community learning, and to be a voice with others in witness to our faith.” Read the full text of the resolution: Racial Justice Resolution.
Stepping up, getting involved
There are many ways for members of our community to become involved in this initiative. Some simply make a commitment to reading books and watching movies about race and racial justice to begin their personal journey toward heightened racial consciousness. There are ample opportunities—both large and small—to become involved in planning and carrying out this work. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how you can get involved. Or click on the “+” sign on the right side of the sections below to discover additional resources to learn and participate. Here are a few specific ways to get involved:
- Follow the activities of our Racial Justice Activists by clicking on the “Racial Justice News” button above in the right sidebar.
- If you are a Facebook user, join the UCUCC Racial Justice Facebook Group. Click on this link, then ask to join at the top if the page.
- Participate in a Peace Circle to explore your own relationship with white supremacy culture and racial justice. These groups are formed periodically and are advertised in our Friday newsletter (subscribe in the footer) and in Racial Justice News (button above, in the right-hand sidebar).
- Join with other organizations in their racial justice work. Check out the section below containing links to these organizations.
- Join one of the groups working on these issues in our church: Immigrant Justice Action Team, Mwanzo Board, Love and Justice Committee Find out about these groups in the “What’s up now” section of the website and look for their announcements in the church’s Friday email.
History of our steps toward racial justice
We are an historically white church in Northeast Seattle’s University District. We began some “Sacred Conversations on Race” in the 1990s NS IN 2008. in recenty years, we have focused on raising our awareness of race issues and taking action in various ways:
- in 2016 Rev. Da Vita McAllister led our Seabeck Family camp and taught us that, “if you can’t see racism and you can’t feel racism, then you can’t stop racism.”
- Following that, twenty congregation members received training from racial justice consultants Diane Schmitz and Cynthia MacLeod to help them facilitate discussions about race. This was followed with small groups that met for six weeks together to discuss issues of race and white privilege. More that 0 people participated.
- The program for Seabeck 2018, let by these same consultants, was entitled “Imperfect, Messy and Striving.” This was followed by forging a connection with the nonprofit Northwest Community Bail Fund, so that we could begin taking action where it was needed.
- We have engaged in several small-group discussions and book groups to further our understanding of racism and its impact.
- We trained several dozen people in the Peace Circle process, empowering them to lead difficult discussions with grace and respect.
- We have participated in marches, protests and demonstrations as demands for racial justice have grown across our country in the past several years. This has included “Standing for the Common Good” every month at the corner of our church property at E. 45th St and 15 Ave. NE.
- Our youth preached about racial justice in 2018. In 2019 we passed a congregational resolution to identify as a Racial Justice Church.
- In 2020, our church’s Racial Justice Activists joined with Sacred Earth Matters to develop a Land Acknowledgement Statement. They worked in consultation with local tribal leaders to this. Read the statement here.
“Our task is to do what we can to clean the water around us: the air of white supremacy that has polluted our culture, our ways of being, our habits, our subconscious. And to do this we must be willing to tell each other the truth. We must be a community and a congregation where the truth can be told. And that means listening through disruption, through discomforts, through anger, through tears, through pain. It means listening with compassion when someone else is speaking with the voice of anger and pain and truth.” (Rev. Amy Roon, 3/27/19)
Recommended web resources and books
On-line resources for education about racial justice
Most Black, Indigenous and People of Color have been schooled in white supremacy culture by the daily grind of systemic racism in our nation. For white people who enjoy the privilege of this culture, the journey toward a more informed racial consciousness often requires great intentionality. For white people embarking on this journey, here are a few internet resources to provide suggestions for reading and viewing:
- Showing up for Racial Justice is a website whose role as part of a multi-racial movement is to undermine white support for white supremacy and to help build a racially-just society.
- Project HOME views systemic racism through the lens of homelessness. Their resource list on racial justice is wide-ranging.
- The Medium’s extensive post on “103 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice” offers practical and interesting suggestions.
- A New York Times article by Imbram X Kendi offers a reading list on racial justice topics.
- A Beginners Guide to Racial Justice, published by the Xavier University Library, offers an extensive list of resources on racial justice from varied perspectives.
There are many ways to inform oneself about how racism is embedded in the United States, The following list was assembled by University UCC member Beth Bartholomew using sources including Facebook. Entries marked with a double chevron (>>) indicate particularly significant or accessible reads. Additional books will be added as they come to our attention.
A People’s History of the United States, by Howard Zinn
Stamped from the Beginning, by Ibram X. Kendi
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism, by Robin DiAngelo
>> So You Want to Talk about Race, by Ijeoma Oluo
The Burning House: Jim Crow and the Making of Modern America, by Anders Walsen
Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America, by Khalil Gibran Muhammad
Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Resentment Is Killing America’s Heartland, by Jonathan M. Metzer
A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America (revised edition), by Ronald Takaki
>> How To Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi
>> The Children, by David Halberstam. follows the lives of a handful of students who were leaders of the Nashville Student Movement from 1959 – 1962, INLUDING James Lawson, James Bevel, Diane Nash, John Lewis, Bernard Lafayette, Marion Berry and C.T. Vivian, among others
Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson. Written by the founder of the nonprofit Equal Justice Initiative, this is an account of Stevenson’s tireless efforts on behalf of people of color wrongly accused, convicted and executed by a biased judicial system.
Anti-Racist Literature, topic-specific
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, by Matthew Desmond
Nobody: Casualties of America’s War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond, by Marc Lamont Hill
Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, by James W. Loewen (1995; 2018 ed.)
“Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria” and Other Conversations about Race, by Beverly Daniel Tatum Ph.D. (1997; 2017)
The Color of Law, by Richard Rothstein
Blackballed: The Black Vote and US Democracy, by Darryl Pinckney
Here are further recommendations, categorized by age and interest.
Fiction for youth
The Skin I’m In, by Sharon G. Flake (1998)
The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas (2017)
After Tupac and D Foster, by Jacqueline Woodson
New York Times book list recommendations on indigenous fiction: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/
Fiction for kids
>> What Lane, by Torrey Maldonado (2020)
>> Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry, by Mildred D. Taylor (a story that grew out of the author’s family’s stories)
Let the Circle Be Unbroken (Sequel to Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry), by Mildred D. Taylor
Non-fiction for preschoolers
The Book of Mean People, by Toni and Slade Morrison (2002)
Recommended movies and videos
Sometimes our understanding of racism is deepened when we experience it vicariously through films and videos, both documentaries and feature films. Some of the film descriptions in the following list are adapted from Wikipedia entries about them.
Films by Spike Lee With his first feature film, “She’s Gotta Have It,” (1986) Spike Lee garnered critical acclaim and attention for his insightful and often biting comedy/dramas. Other Spike Lee offerings of note include “Do the Right Thing” (1989) and “Malcom X.” (1992).
Films by Ava DuVernay Ms. DuVernay came to wide attention with the feature film “Selma” in 2014, which portrayed the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and the historic attacks on black protesters, including John Lewis and Martin Luther King, when the marched across Selma’s Edmund Pettis Bridge. She then produced the documentary “13th” (2016) about the 13th amendment to the US Constitution. This amendment ended involuntary servitude except as a punishment for a conviction. This opened the door to abuse in the form of African Americans being arrested for specious crimes (vagrancy, loitering) and re-enslaved in penal labor. Ms. DuVernay’s recent documentary TV series, “When They See Us,” (2019) tells the story of the Central Park 5, wrongly incarcerated for sexual assult.
Fruitvale Station (2013) is a fictionalized telling of the police killing of a Black man in California at a commuter rail station. The film depicts the story of Oscar Grant III, a 22-year-old from Hayward, California, and his experiences on the last day of his life, before he was fatally shot by BART Police in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day 2009.
Loving (2016) features to story of tells the story of Richard and Mildred Loving, a interracial couple and the plaintiffs in the 1967 U.S. Supreme Court (the Warren Court) decision Loving v. Virginia, which invalidated state laws prohibiting interracial marriage.
Ghosts of Mississippi (1996) This courtroom drama film was directed by Rob Reiner and stars Alec Baldwin, Whoopi Goldberg and James Woods. The plot is based on the true story of the 1994 trial of Byron De La Beckwith, the white supremacist accused of the 1963 assassination of civil rights activist Medgar Evers.
Just Mercy (2019) This film is adapted by the book of the same name, written by Bryan Stevenson. The movie is very true to the book, giving intensified emotion and depth to Stevenson’s compelling account of his efforts to free wrongly incarcerated African Americans from Death Row.
The Hate U Give (2018) Based on a young-adult novel by Angie Thompson, this movie follows the struggles of a 16-year old girl who witnesses the death of her good friend by police. The film’s lead actor Amandla Stenberg was nominated for and won numerous accolades, including winning the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture and being nominated for a Critics’ Choice Award.
If Beale Street Could Talk (2018) This movie is based on James Baldwin’s book of the same name. It deals with the difficulties faced by a young African American couple living in New York City.
12 Years a Slave (2013) A biographical period-drama and adaptation of the 1853 slave memoir, “Twelve Years a Slave,” by Solomon Northup, a New York State-born free African-American man who was kidnapped in Washington, D.C., by two conmen in 1841 and sold into slavery.
I Am Not Your Negro (2016) This 93-minute feature documentary is narrated by Samuel L. Jackson and is inspired by James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript, “Remember This House,” a collection of notes and letters written by Baldwin in the mid-1970s The memoir recounts the lives of his close friends and civil rights leaders Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and Medgar Evers. It is particularly impactful as it included considerable footage of interviews with James Baldwin, and is a testament to his brilliance as an author and social critic.
Get Out (2017) A thriller written and directed by Jordan Peele in his directorial debut. While the film’s basic premise is farfetched, it does expose typical racial stereotypes and provides rich food for thought.
Moonlight (2016) This film received the Academy Award for “Best Picture.” It is a coming-of-age drama that follows the life of a young Black man from childhood into early adulthood as he deals with his sexuality and begins to understand his own gay sexuality.
Information and links to racial justice organizations
Groups led by Black, Indigenous and People of Color who may welcome folks to work with them
Black Lives Matter Seattle/King County
A social advocacy organization fighting for the protection and liberation of Black Life through advocacy and direct action. BLMSKC centers leadership on Black femmes, women, queer and trans people dismantling anti-black systems and policies of oppression.
Connection to UCUCC: Member Livio De La Cruz is the treasurer and on the Board.
Ways to be involved: Respond to action alerts related to police reform, city budget, and more. Participate in BLMSKC-sponsored direct action.
Chief Seattle Club
Chief Seattle Club exists to provide sacred space to nurture, affirm, and renew the spirit of urban Native people. We are a Native-led human service agency that provides for the basic needs of our members, many of whom are experiencing homelessness. Our new annex consists of an eight-story mixed-use building incorporating an art gallery/cafe, a full primary healthcare clinic and seven floors of low income, workforce housing for at risk adult Native Americans.
Connection to UCUCC: We donated $2500 in 2020 through Love & Justice and at the request of the Indigenous Land Acknowledgement Group.
Ways to get involved: Donate
Emergency Feeding Program
Mission: To provide a nutritional response to people in need of immediate food assistance by collaborating with partner agencies to ensure that no one will go hungry tonight. The Emergency Feeding Program began in 1977 as a partnership between the Black United Clergy for Action and the Church Council of Greater Seattle.
UCUCC connections: Mary Elizabeth Maltmann worked with them; we fund them and pack food every month.
Ways to be involved: Volunteer to pack food at church or in warehouse. (Not an option during the current pandemic.)
Mt. Zion Baptist Church
Founded in 1890, Mount Zion Baptist Church has a long and rich history. Known as home to the largest African American congregation in Washington State, we strive to meet our mission and fulfill our vision. Mount Zion Baptist Church is called to be a Christ-centered church that addresses the needs of the total person through liberating worship, life-transforming Christian education, progressive and timely ministries and effective social activism.
UCUCC Connections: Dr. Georgia McDade attends Tuesday morning Bible study, and has been active in recommending videos to the Racial Justice group. Mt. Zion members Dr. McDade and Elizabeth Kennedy have relationships with multiple UCUCC members.
Ways to be involved: Members of UCUCC have been invited to Mt. Zion’s Wednesday night prayer group, Sunday worship, Fall Marketplace Event, and the Community Feeding and Prison Ministries.
Northwest Community Bail Fund
The Northwest Community Bail Fund is a nonprofit organization advocating for bail reform and working to minimize the harm of the cash bail system by paying bail for people who would otherwise spend the pre-trial time in jail.
UCUCC Connections: Volunteer group meets at our church; Gail Hanson manages the logistics of those meetings and takes minutes for them. Molly Ebert and Ginger Warfield provide various forms of volunteer assistance.
Ways to be involved:
1) Community Members contact our bail clients to remind them of court dates and
capture the stories of how being kept in jail could have impacted them.
2) Bail posters travel to the King County Correctional Facility and post bail for our clients.
3) Everyone involved advocates for prison reform
4) Volunteers are also needed to help with fundraising and client services.
Poor People’s Campaign of Washington
The Poor People’s Campaign is building a long-term movement for the justice and liberation of the poor and all those impacted by the evils of systemic racism, the war economy, ecological devastation, poverty, and our distorted moral narrative.
Ways to be involved: Join an operational team. The following teams need members: Communications, Development/Fundraising, Policy Research, Political Education
Urban Farms: Nurturing Roots and Yes Farm (Black Farmers’ Collective)
Two Seattle farming initiatives led by people of color which enhance food security, community-building, and reconnecting with the land. Nurturing Roots is on land owned by Bethany UCC, and Yes Farm is at Yesler Terrace and also in Woodinville.
UCUCC Connections: Love & Justice Committee will voting on 10/7 whether to support Nurturing Roots and the Black Farmers’ Collective out of our endowment fund. Lily Lahiri attends meetings. Special Offering in 2020.
Ways to be involved: They need gardening volunteers. Maybe other opportunities.
Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle
We empower African Americans and underserved communities to thrive by securing educational and economic opportunities.
UCUCC Connections: Donated $15,000 to the Urban League’s Prosperity Fund to support black-owned businesses impacted by COVID-19.
Ways to be involved: They need office assistance and volunteers with homelessness outreach team.
Northwest Immigrant Rights Project
Mission: Northwest Immigrant Rights Project promotes justice by defending and advancing the rights of immigrants through direct legal services, systemic advocacy, and community education.
Ways to be involved: Pro bono legal work and intakes; translators/interpreters
El Centro de la Raza
Mission: As an organization grounded in the Latino community of Washington State, it is the mission of El Centro de la Raza (The Center for People of All Races) to build the Beloved Community through unifying all racial and economic sectors; to organize, empower, and defend the basic human rights of our most vulnerable and marginalized populations; and to bring critical consciousness, justice, dignity, and equity to all the peoples of the world.
Ways to be involved: Various volunteer opportunities available; Currently working on air/noise pollution in Beacon Hill
Mission: The mission of the National Association for the Ahttps://seattlekingcountynaacp.wildapricot.org/dvancement of Colored People is to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination. This work is not possible without consistent and active support from the whole of our community and service area.
Ways to be involved: Register voters
No New Youth Jail
Mission: The No New Youth Jail Campaign, led by those most impacted by youth incarceration, stands in strong opposition to the building of a new $210 million “Children and Family Justice Center” in King County. They are now working on police reform issues and the Seattle city budget.
Ways to be involved: Get on list to provide political solidarity and advocacy
Equity in Education Coalition
Mission: Eliminating the opportunity gap and promoting birth through career success for all children of color in Washington State.
Ways to be Involved: Attend Lunch & Learns, Add your voice for advocacy, Get and stay informed.
Seattle/King County People Power Police Accountability Working Group (ACLU)
Mission: Currently creating a nonpartisan candidate guide on police reform. Volunteer driven, members of community
Ways to be involved: Sign up for emails and opportunities for action.
Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network
We are in need of volunteers to staff the Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network’s Rapid Response Hotline (1-844-RAID-REP). This hotline is a key resource for helping community members report ICE activity in their communities and dispatch rapid response volunteers.
Mission: At the Children’s Alliance, we’re advocates for kids. We ensure that laws, policies and programs work for kids, and we hold our leaders accountable until they secure the resources required to make all children safe and healthy. Strong anti-racist focus.
Ways to be involved: Join our mailing list to receive regular updates on our work, action alerts, and event invites. Our voices are powerful tools and when we raise them together we can move justice for kids!
Organizations with faith communities from many backgrounds
Church Council of Greater Seattle
Mission: Working primarily now on fellowship, immigrant accompaniment, and exploring using church land for reinvesting in neighborhoods/housing
UCUCC Connections: UCUCC is a covenant partner. Beth Amsbary on staff; UCUCC Immigrant Justice Action Team works with CCGS to offer solidarity and sanctuary to undocumented immigrants.
Ways to be involved: Join the UCUCC Immigrant Justice Action Team. Represent UCUCC on the Faith Land Cohort that seeks to discern together next steps toward utilizing faith-owned land in ways that reinvest in neighborhoods, strengthen and develop community relationships, and deepen connection to the land.
Faith Action Network
Mission: Statewide advocacy on economic and racial justice, environment, and civil rights
UCUCC Connections: Financial support through Love & Justice Ministry. UCUCC Peace & Justice Advocates Action Team bases state legislative advocacy on their recommendations
Ways to be involved: Attend annual fundraising dinner, participate in advocacy with others such as during Interfaith Advocacy Day. Other volunteer opportunities.
Africatown Community Land Trust
Mission: The mission of Africatown Community Land Trust Mission is to acquire, develop and steward land in Greater Seattle to empower & preserve the Black Diaspora community. Africatown Community Land Trust is working for community ownership of land in the Central District that can support the cultural and economic thriving of people who are part of the African diaspora in the Greater Seattle region.
Ways to get involved: Sign up to volunteer for Outreach & Advocacy, Policy & Research, Fundraising and more
Other groups we can fund
Mission: Organizes for environmental, racial, and economic justice as a South Seattle-based grassroots organization led by people of color and low income people. We cultivate multi-generational community leaders to be central voices in the Green Movement in order to ensure that the benefits of the green movement and green economy (green jobs, health food, energy efficient and healthy homes, public transit) reach low income communities and communities of color.
Na’ah Illahee Fund
Mission: We are an Indigenous women-led organization dedicated to the ongoing regeneration of Indigenous communities. Through grantmaking, capacity-building and community-based intergenerational programming, we seek transformative change by supporting culturally grounded leadership and organizing. Focused on Indigenous ecology, food sovereignty, and wise action, we work to advance climate and gender justice, while creating healthy pathways towards self-determination and movement-building.
Puget Sound Sage
Mission: Combines research, innovative public policy and organizing to ensure all people have an affordable place to live, a good job, a clean environment, and access to public transportation. We advocate for policy that makes racial and social equity a top goal for decision makers at all levels of government.
Community Leadership Institute provides social justice advocates with not just a voice, but a seat at the table by training emerging community leaders to sit on local boards and commissions.
Ways to get involved: Participate in South Communities Organizing for Racial & Regional Equity, which represents a growing multi-racial coalition of (now 16) community and member-based organizations.
…Let Justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.
– Amos 5: 24